Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Have the Power

I have been an adjunct composition instructor for a couple years now (hence the Prof. in my name…I’m no poser like Dr. Dre, I keep it REAL SON) and I truly enjoy it. I like imparting knowledge; I like sharing articles and ideas that I find interesting; I like controlling people’s destinies. Ok, the last one may be an exaggeration, but it has an element of truth. Students control their own destiny, but I’m like a security guard that can allow them through the gates towards their destiny or not. And I like that power.
But it’s a difficult job sometimes. Because with great power comes the ability to climb up walls and shoot webbing from your wrists, or something. I’m a tough, but fair, grader. I feel the best way to get a lot out of students is to expect a lot out of them. And I do offer a lot of support and assistance. Besides, it’s Comp 1. I’m not delusional. I don’t expect any Malcolm Gladwells to come out of my class, but I do expect you to do the assignment. And if I spend an hour correcting your paper and offering you suggestions, you better take those damn suggestions and improve your paper. I’m not reading your 6th grade level grammar and 2 pages of one, long-ass run-on sentence for pleasure over here.
And most do take my suggestions to heart and improve their papers. Ok, like half do. All right, a few students do every now and then, and it makes my job worthwhile.
But grading can make a motherflunker get all Nic Cage in this bitch. (Those highlighted words are called "hyperlinks" and you should click on them to get a fuller and deeper understanding and appreciation of my blog. Especially the Nic Cage one. Seriously. Watch that shit.) The A’s are easy. They stand out beginning in Week 2 and remain consistently above the fray (side note: fray…cool word, horrible band). The F’s are easy too. They show up for the first class, stroll in for one or two classes during the semester, and then show up on the last day asking to make up their missing work. I enjoy those students the most. Yes, you can make up a semester’s worth of work in 2 hours and 50 minutes. Your first assignment is to take my foot out of your ass and write a 2 page summary of “How To Go Fuck Yourself” using my shoelaces as a pen and your own fecal matter as the ink…Go!
Then there is everyone else. The immigrant student who works his ass off all semester, did every assignment, revised his essays 4 times, but still puts his nouns before his adjectives, replaces commas with semi-colons, and misuses the thesaurus (a lot). Or the really smart girl who has been keeping a journal since 5 years old and writes beautiful poems about rainbows, but cannot create a clear thesis statement to save her life. Or the girl who hands in well-written, interesting essays, but misses every other class and never does the homework. Or the kid who has an average grasp on the language, hands in mediocre essay assignments and completes all the homework assignments half-assedly.
The problem is that a subject like Composition is subjective. No matter how much teachers try to be objective, or tell you that their grading is done using an objective rubric system that they have established after 20 years of painstaking study, it is always subjective. What looks like a vague, underdeveloped thesis to me, may be an intelligent, concise thesis to the 65 year old composition teacher, or vice versa. Or maybe I was tired the day I read your essay. Or maybe I overheard you bitching about the class to every student sitting around you. Trust me, everything plays a part.
Which is why I tend to grade on effort more than anything else. Maybe that’s not how the real world works, but fuck it, maybe it should work that way. Maybe we should re-examine that whole “A” for effort thing. Why is that a joke and not reality? How can I tell the woman who just moved from Poland and is working as a waitress to support her 3 kids and her unborn baby that handing in every assignment, revising her essays 14 times, and participating in class discussion is not good enough to receive a C- and get her to the next level? But, if she can’t sit down and write a proper sentence, without any chance to revise, should she pass? Does the guy who can write a great paper but didn’t show up to 75% of the classes pass? It all depends. And that’s a response that I would tell my students is “vague”, but sometimes life is vague, and it’s the best we can do.
So there’s a little look into the mind of a community college composition professor, namely Prof. Thug. I think the biggest thing is being consistent with grading. And that’s what I try to do. And that’s what I ask of my students. Otherwise, get used to writing with shit-soaked shoelaces. 
I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

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